The Soufan Group Morning Brief


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THURSDAY, AUGUST 18, 2016
TOP DEMOCRAT ON SENATE INTEL COMMITTEE CALLS FOR NATO ACTION AGAINST ISIS

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on NATO to do more in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, including invoking the alliance’s mutual self-defense clause. In an op-ed published Wednesday, Feinstein said that “the time has come for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to invoke its self-defense clause so the full weight of the alliance is brought to bear against the Islamic State.” NATO has only once invoked its mutual self-defense clause, Article 5: following the 9/11 attacks. The Hill

NEW YORK OFFICIALS CALL FOR RELEASE OF COUNTERTERRORISM FUNDS
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton called on Congress to release approximately $180 million in counterterrorism funds that are reportedly being held up by bureaucratic gridlock. “If Congress doesn’t act, there are going to be a lot of happy terrorists out in the world because they’re going to have a chance to come at us with less of our defenses up,” Mayor de Blasio said. ABC, CBS

FBI: A federal judge ordered the FBI field office in Boston to disclose information about its Joint Terrorism Task Force in Massachusetts, including the number of agents involved in the task force, the amount of resources it uses, and its number of open cases since 2014. The order was in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts under the Freedom of Information Act. Boston Globe

Cybersecurity: Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced plans to help state officials with their cybersecurity efforts in the upcoming elections. On Wednesday, Johnson said the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center will assist states in auditing voting machines and will provide actionable intelligence against cyber threats. The Hill


REPORT FINDS THOUSANDS HAVE DIED IN SYRIAN PRISONS
A new report from Amnesty International estimates that some 17,720 people have died while being detained in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011. The report also highlights widespread abuse, torture, and neglect in Syrian government prisons, where an estimated 10 detainees die per day. CNN, The Independent

Somalia: U.S. special forces assisted Somali troops in an operation against al-Shabab militants last week, according to an American military spokesman. American forces acted as military advisors in a raid on an al-Shabab checkpoint in the southern city of Saakow last Wednesday. New York Times

Nigeria: Boko Haram militants killed five people in an ambush on a highway in northeast Nigeria on Wednesday. A convoy carrying Nigerian immigration officials was attacked by the militants near the border with Cameroon. AFP


Turkey: Turkey began freeing 38,000 prisoners on Wednesday as part of a penal reform effort to make space for tens of thousands of suspects detained in connection with last month’s failed coup attempt. Reuters

Russia: The United States is looking into whether Russia has violated a UN Security Council resolution by using an Iranian air base to carry out strikes in Syria. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said government attorneys are looking into the potential violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which was passed as part of the Iran nuclear deal and restricts some military interactions between Iran and other countries. Reuters

Russia: Four suspected militants were killed in a shootout with Russian special forces during a raid on an apartment in St. Petersburg on Wednesday. At least three of the suspects had been wanted for links to a series of terror attacks and attempted assassinations, according to Russia’s counterterrorism committee. BBC

Germany: A German man who admitted to planning a terrorist attack against American targets and received training in Pakistan from an offshoot of Al Qaeda was released from prison this week. Fritz Gelowicz, 36, was sentenced in 2010 to 12 years in prison. He was reportedly eligible for early release and was no longer deemed to be a danger, according to German officials. New York Times
TOP OP-EDS
Does the U.S. Ignore Its Civilian Casualties in Iraq and Syria?: “As the United States and its allies continue their bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, many more noncombatants are perishing than they seem prepared to admit,” writes Chris Woods in The New York Times. “The United States and its allies have taken care to mitigate harm to civilians….But with the fight moving deeper into the towns and cities of Iraq and Syria — where millions remain under the Islamic State’s thumb — the risk is rising.”

Can Islam and Liberalism Coexist?: “One of the hopes that grew out of the Arab Spring was that a relatively moderate strain of Islamist politics could thrive in the region....Five years later, however, the Arab Spring has devolved into a collection of bloody failures everywhere from Egypt to Syria,” writes Isaac Chotiner on Slate. “Another proposed model of Islamism—Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey—was already giving way to autocracy well before a quashed coup attempt further entrenched Erdogan’s demagoguery.”

Calling Al Qaeda’s Bluff: The Nusra Front’s “rebranding is virtually meaningless. Mr. Jolani left no doubt that his group, under whatever name, retains its Qaeda-inspired ideology: His announcement was peppered with effusive praise for Al Qaeda, its current leadership and Osama bin Laden, and he promised no deviation from standard existing doctrines,” writes Hussein Ibish in The New York Times. “The move is not merely defensive; it is a bid for influence, even control. As Nusra increased its influence among armed Syrian rebel factions in the wake of the Russian intervention, it sought to position itself as first among equals leading a broad opposition coalition.
EDITOR'S PICK

SOUFAN GROUP
For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: Civil War, Cybersecurity, and Climate Change

Out Now: Karen Greenberg's newest book, Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State, is the definitive account of how America's War on Terror sparked a decade-long assault on the rule of law, weakening our courts and our Constitution in the name of national security.




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